The Incline, CO, USA

HIKING DISTANCE: 0.88 Miles
VERTICAL: +2,090′
(2,619 steps; 45% Ave Grade; 68% Max Grade)
TIME: 32 Minutes 54 Seconds

Challenge Goal: 30 Minutes
Guaranteed Goal: 40 Minutes

Started out at a light jog, which wasn’t right at all. And it didn’t take me long to realize it. After about 2 minutes, I started hiking.

Turns out “I’m gonna run The Incline,” is just fancy talk for “I’m gonna briskly walk The Incline.” One doesn’t actually run The Incline. I mean, the verified FKT (fastest known time) is barely sub-18. (0.88 miles in 17:45, just shy of 3 mph). That’s my hiking pace on a moderate slope. Basically, it’s just a walk-up. That said, there are over 2,500 railroad tie steps and over 2,000 feet of vertical gain in under a mile on this “walk.” And they’re oddly spaced and have inconsistent vertical clearance. It’s extreme walking; there is just no other way to describe it.

I reached the top and couldn’t believe it. I spent 20 minutes looking for the next leg, but there was none, only a couple trails. I’d topped out at 32:54. Not too shabby. I wonder what I could do when I’m really in shape. Sub-30, for sure. Maybe sub-25? Giving myself too much credit? Only one way to know. Guess I’m coming back.

Snapped some rad long exposure shots at the “summit.” Speaking of summits, that false summit is a morale crusher. Geez. I’d forgotten it was there until I was cresting it, thinking my work was done. I realized just before the next pitch came into view, and I was demoralized. “Just keep walking,” I told myself. “Don’t stop moving; don’t even turn around.” And I didn’t, not until I topped out. It was a snail’s pace at times – anything but graceful or glamorous – but I never stopped making forward progress.

Loads of lightning on the way down. Incredible show, mostly in the clouds. Flashes about every second starting at the halfway point. Definitely triggering my anxiety, but it didn’t stop me from counting the steps. Couldn’t descend the stairs fast enough. Crossed my fingers, and my heart, the rest of the way down.